Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Year Anniversary Coming Up

In four days, on September 4th, Bad Girl will celebrate its one-year release anniversary. Early this morning it was #11 on the Amazon list of the top 100 books for single women. I'm a happy camper.

Author Indicted in Massachusetts

Peter Manso, a writer working on the story of the murder of Christa Worthington, was indicted a week ago Friday on multiple firearms charges relating to an incident that occurred in December.

In an article in Thursday's New York Times, Manso claims the indictment is an attempt to silence him:
"When’s the last time you heard about someone facing 10 years in prison for not renewing a gun permit?” asked Mr. Manso, who contends he was “overcharged and selectively prosecuted by the very D.A. who is the focus of my book.”
You may remember the Christa Worthington story. Worthington was the fashion writer who was found stabbed to death in her bungalow in Truro on Cape Cod on January 6, 2002. The murder made news because Worthington was a single mother and her two-year-old daughter Ava was found clinging to her body. The little girl told the neighbor who found them that "Mommy fell down."

Within days of Christa's death, police had questioned the neighbor, who was a former boyfriend. They had also uncovered the identity of Ava's father, who turned out to be a local fisherman, married with six children of his own. Since forensics indicated sexual activity shortly before the murder, the police focused on DNA evidence. They collected samples from the neighbor, the fisherman and Christa's ex-boyfriend in New York.

A year later, despite a $25,000 reward, no progress had been made in the case. Maria Flook, a college professor, published a book titled Invisible Eden on the murder in mid-2003, which climbed to #6 on the NY Times best-seller list.

Two years later, on the anniversary of Christa's murder, police asked the adult males in Truro to voluntarily donate saliva samples. In April, 2005, the police arrested Christopher McCowen, the trash collector for Christa's neighborhood, based on a DNA sample he had offered the previous spring in March, 2004.

McCowen had only a verbal IQ of 78 (69 is considered impaired), and his attorney argued that his client had engaged in a consensual relationship with Christa. On November 16, 2006, McCowen was convicted of the murder. He received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

According to the New York Times, the writer Peter Manso assisted the defense team during the trial:
After the verdict relatives of several jurors told Mr. Manso of racial bias among some jurors [Mr. McCowen is black], which Mr. Manso relayed to Judge Gary A. Nickerson, who held a hearing to interview the jurors. The judge later found no grounds for a retrial.
Manso decided to write about both the case and the legal system in which it was tried:
The book, Mr. Manso keeps promising, will be a “bombshell” exposing a corrupt and inept justice system riddled with cronyism and corruption. He has been feeding tabloidy morsels to the press and trashing local law enforcement officials by name, saying they run this exclusive seaside town like “a suburb of redneck Mississippi.”
Last December, while Manso was in California, his home alarm in Truro went off. The police entered the house and saw a loaded shotgun in a closet. They left, obtained a warrant and returned to find, along with a .38-caliber pistol and the shotgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, which is illegal to own.

The charges against Mr. Manso included the fact that the weapons were loaded and not properly stored and that the licenses had expired. The most serious charge--that of possession of the assault weapon--carries a maximum sentence of ten years incarceration.

According to Mr. Manso, he had purchased the AR-15 before a change in the gun laws prohibited ownership of the assault rifles. He insists the police and prosecution are trying to discredit him because of his outspokenness about the Worthington case.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Midnight Sun May Not Rise

Unless you've been living in a cave, by now, you've heard of Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight young adult vampire novels. The fourth book in the series, Breaking Dawn, was released earlier this month.

The film adaptation of Twilight, the first book, is scheduled to be released this fall. Here's the trailer.

Although the film was originally scheduled to be released December 12, the delay of the next Harry Potter movie convinced the producer to move Twilight's release forward to November 21.

Twilight tells the love story of a pair of high school students. Bella Swan is the daughter of the chief of police of small town Forks, Washington. Edward Cullen is her suitor--and a vampire. Edward fights his desire for Bella's blood while protecting her from other threats.

The books are notable for the fact that they do not include any sex. Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon and did not want her teenage protagonists engaging in premarital sex.

Earlier this month, my middle brother took his family on vacation. His main criterion was that they go somewhere cool. My sixteen-year-old niece suggested Seattle. Since her parents didn't object, the three of them (plus my niece's best friend) flew to Washington.

The plane wasn't on the ground for thirty minutes when my niece was asking to drive to Forks.

"What the devil is Forks?" my brother asked.

"It's where Twilight is set," his daughter replied.

They rented a car and drove to Forks. A week later I asked him about the town. "How was it?"

"Small. A population of three thousand plus another thousand teenage girls, books in hand," he replied.

Meyer is reputed to have selected the small Washington town because it is one of the rainiest in the U.S.

The first four books in the Twilight series had been written from Bella's point-of-view. Midnight Sun, the fifth book of the series, was not going to be a continuation of the story. Instead, it was to be a retelling of Twilight from Edward's POV. Somehow, some way, the first twelve chapters ended up online, creating a hullabaloo this week.

On Thursday, Stephenie Meyer posted those twelve chapters on her own website, saying that she was putting the book on hold indefinitely:
. . . what happened was a huge violation of my rights as an author, not to mention me as a human being. As the author of the Twilight Saga, I control the copyright and it is up to the owner of the copyright to decide when the books should be made public . . . This has been a very upsetting experience for me, but I hope it will at least leave my fans with a better understanding of copyright and the importance of artistic control.
If you want to read her full statement or those first twelve chapters, go here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What The Hell Was Cindy McCain Thinking???

After this post, I'll stop talking politics--at least until the Republican Convention begins [Grin].

Okay, now we know the players on the field: McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden.

And we got our first look at Sarah Palin. I found the attached clip of her speech on Friday very interesting.

First, what the hell was going on with Cindy McCain? The woman paid absolutely no attention to the fact that the cameras were all trained on that part of the stage. She was totally preoccupied with putting on a forearm support--first the glove and then the brace.

Apparently she injured her wrist on August 13th as the result of a too-enthusiastic handshake. Two weeks ago, she was wearing a soft cast and a sling.

But talk about being self-absorbed. She didn't even notice that the poor Palin kids were watching her for clues as to what to do. Every time she bobbed down, they tried to sit down. I was alternately amused and appalled by her lack of awareness. When poor Bristol Palin, who was holding the baby, finally sat down, Cindy followed the kid's lead.

Second, Palin irritated me a teeny tiny bit. She focussed only on the male members of her family in her introduction. She was so busy pushing her credentials ("My husband belongs to a union," "My son is going overseas to Iraq," and "My baby's name is Trig Paxson Van Palin") that she gave really short shrift to her three daughters, skipping over them, barely offering their names. I held my breath to see if she would try to make political capital out of the fact that the infant had Down's. Thankfully she stopped short of that.

I'll admit it. I'm feeling a little snarly. Does McCain really think that women are so stupid and shallow that they would vote for him on the basis of a woman on the ticket?

I'm voting because I'm tired of seeing the American values that I respect: fairness, open-mindedness, compassion and tolerance trampled by an administration and a party that has lost sight of the common man. The next president will name at least two new justices to the Supreme Court. THAT's what matters to me.

Putting Sarah Palin--who is reportedly a fine woman--on the ticket is not going to undo eight years of abuse.

Eight is enough.

Who Will McCain Pick?

John McCain is scheduled to announce his running mate today.

Thinking about his vice president choices, I just can't imagine him picking Joe Lieberman, the name I keep hearing bandied around.

The TV networks see the main problem with Lieberman as the fact that he is pro-choice. I think the much larger problem with Lieberman is that he's 66 years old. Jay Leno has already been making "age-ism" jokes every night about the 72-year-old McCain. Can you imagine the jokes Leno would make about a McCain/Lieberman ticket?

The Republicans are angling to capture the middle-aged woman's vote--the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. I think McCain is going to choose a woman. A young woman.

That means no Mitt Romney, no Tim Pawlenty, no Charlie Crist, no Mark Sanford, no Richard Burr, no Paul Ryan, no Tom Ridge, no Rob Portman (I googled the VP short list this morning).

Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Senator from Texas, qualifies as female, but she's 64.

Carly Fiorina is the former CEO and Board chair of HP, who was fired in 2005. At 53, she's the right age. She has both financial and executive experience. But she has two big problems. In 2004, she was quoted saying, "There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore. We have to compete for jobs as a nation."

While I absolutely agree with the sentiment, it is not likely to play well in the press. Add to that the cloud of the wiretapping scandal over at HP when she left, and I think Fiorina is just too risky a choice.

That leaves Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

In an August 1 article in the Washington Times, Newt Gingrich said: "Mrs. Palin is 'a mother of five, is a genuine Alaskan, is a hunter, is a dog sledder, is very much for drilling for oil, has a great reform reputation, took on big oil on behalf of the people of Alaska,' . . . 'I think she would bring a level of excitement and uniqueness . . .'"

Add to that, she married her high school sweetheart, and they had five children. Palin has a nineteen-year-old son in the Army and a four-month-old son with Down's Syndrome whom she refused to abort. In between the two boys, she had three daughters. She's the poster child for conservative values: a hunter, a NRA member, pro-life, with a reputation for integrity. And she's only 44 years old.

I'm betting Palin will be McCain's choice.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming

I've said it before, and I'm going to repeat it tonight: I've been a registered Republican for all of my adult life.

I am happy to report I have never voted for George Bush--neither for governor of Texas nor for president.

Following the November, 2004 election, I was devastated. Everything I've seen in the last eight years only made me more angry toward my own party and its elected chief executive.

I opposed going into Iraq; I opposed warrantless wire-tapping of American citizens; I opposed Guantanamo Bay; and I opposed the trampling of the Constitution in the name of security.

I'm interrupting regular blogging here to post Barrack Obama's acceptance speech tonight. I'll be voting for him come November and urging everyone I know to do the same.

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin, and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation: With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest--a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours--Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia, I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women, students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors, found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments, a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes, and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land: enough! This moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that, we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives, on health care and education and the economy, Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his economic plan, was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is, you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president, when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000, like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great, a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves, protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity, not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the startups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes — cut taxes for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies retool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy; wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American — if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime, by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less because we cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility — that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans — Democrats and Republicans have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As commander in chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America, they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit that American promise that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead, people of every creed and color, from every walk of life, is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of Scripture, hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Misha Resurfaces

Since March 1, I've done several posts on the convoluted story of the writer whose "memoir" was revealed as a hoax.

Yeah, I know, you're wondering which writer I'm talking about: Laura Albert, James Frey, Nasdijj . . . the list seems to go on and on.

Actually, I'm talking about Misha Defonseca, who claimed that she lived with wolves as a child while hiding from Nazis. You can read my first post on her book here.

According to an Associated Press story on Monday:
Defonseca never lived with wolves to escape the Nazis, never killed a German soldier in self-defense, never walked 3,000 miles across Europe in search of her parents. Contrary to the book's claims, Defonseca admitted in February that she isn't even Jewish.
On Thursday, Defonseca's U.S. publisher is taking the writer to court. The publisher, Jane Daniel, believes the $32.4 millon judgment she was ordered to pay Defonseca and her ghost writer in 2001 would never have been levied had the court known Defonseca was a fraud.

According to the Associated Press:
The two sued Daniel for breach of contract. In 2001, a Middlesex District Court jury found that Daniel had failed to promote the book as promised and had hidden profits. The jury awarded Defonseca $7.5 million and Lee $3.3 million, but those amounts were later tripled by a judge who found Daniel and her small publishing company, Mt. Ivy Press, had misled both women and tried to claim royalties herself by rewriting the book.

Defonseca's attorney says too much time has gone by to revisit the verdict. But Daniel's attorney says that Defonseca only admitted to her fraud six months ago.

Stay tuned to see what happens . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amazon Buys Shelfari

Yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported: is buying Shelfari, the Seattle social networking startup for book lovers, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

The deal comes about three weeks after acquired Victoria, B.C.-basedAbeBooks, which holds an equity stake in Shelfari's main rival, LibraryThing.
An announcement is expected shortly.

Read the story here.

Barnes & Noble's Second Quarter Call

Last Thursday morning, the executives of Barnes & Noble met on a conference call with the security analysts who follow their stock to discuss the 2nd Quarter results for 2008. I listened to the call from my desk at the university. I was particularly interested in hearing about the resignation of the CEO of B&, who had quit a few days earlier.

According to last Tuesday's Publishers Weekly:
Marie Toulantis, who has been associated with Barnes & since 1999 and has led the company for more than six years, has resigned as CEO. Barnes & Noble is not directly replacing Toulantis and her duties will be divided up between Tom Burke, who is executive v-p of e-commerce for B&, and Kevin Frain, B& CFO who has added the title of executive v-p of e-commerce operations.
Because of Toulantis' resignation, I listened to the entire call.

And no one mentioned her resignation once. Not Steve Riggio, the B&N CEO; not Joseph Lombardi, the CFO; and not any of the analysts asking questions.

To say I was torqued is an understatement.

There were some interesting points made. Publishers Lunch taught me last year that I could find the transcripts of these conference calls on Seeking Alpha here.

I've pulled some excerpts from the call that I found noteworthy. The speaker is Steve Riggio, the B&N CEO. In the first excerpt, he is talking about the growth of the B&N Internet business:
Our Internet sales were clearly a bright spot in the quarter with a 13.9% growth excluding the effect of Harry Potter. I will note that this is the seventh straight quarter of growth for our Internet business with double digit growth in 2007 and for the first half of 2008. Traffic to the site is up, conversions are up and we continue to enhance the site from usability as well as a content perspective.

[Note from Maya: But not a word about the resignation of the CEO of that business line. Grrrr]

We've also begun to expand our content offerings to include products offered only online enabling us to leverage the eCommerce infrastructure we have built.

If you look at all of the business that we transact in our stores and online, and you exclude the effect of Harry Potter, and the music business, our comp sales are actually up a freckle about .6% overall. So, all in all we're very pleased with the results of the quarter . . .
Riggio went on to talk about their membership program and the discounts associated with it:
Our member program is seven years old and we continue to experiment with a variety of different offers of different discounts at every level. So, is it typical of what we've been testing? Yes and we will continue to test. But, the message is that overall the amount of discounts that we give over and above the everyday discounts has been declining because we feel that we don't need to do that. Customers are coming back by the virtue of the fact that they're members . . .

Finally, Riggio talked about B&N's digital productions:
We began selling digital magazines earlier this year on the website. We're very encouraged by what we're seeing there and like with all new strategic developments of any type, we will announce it on the day that we launch but we can't really make any further comments on anything that we will be doing or might be doing, it's just so highly strategic . . .

There's the indication that we began selling digital magazines and the fact that we're very pleased with what we're seeing there points to a small slice of the arena. We do not believe that eBooks is the total universe of digital products that will be sold in the marketplace. It is a subset of a much larger arena of digital content in many ways. So, we're looking at the entire arena.

Seeking Alpha permits visitors to their site to quote up to 400 words as long as they give attribution and the link here. I've quoted 378 words.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Definition Of Hope

This is a photo of my four-month-old nephew, Trevor. I've made it my screensaver both at home and at the university because I smile every time I see it.

The Snowball Is Preparing To Roll

Saturday's Wall Street Journal had an article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg on the forthcoming book about Warren Buffet titled The Snowball.

According to the author, the title is based on a comment by Buffet: "Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill."

The WSJ says Bantam "paid $7.2 million for the North American rights and expects to sell more than 1 million hardcover copies of The Snowball, which is due out September 29."

Alice Schroeder, author of the biography, met Buffett about ten years ago when she was an analyst at Paine Webber reporting on Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's company. He reportedly gave her access to his personal files and correspondence and a letter of introduction to his friends.

However, it appears that Buffett will not be publicizing the book. According to The Journal:
A person familiar with the situation says Mr. Buffett was initially upset about some of the content. The issue has to do with his first marriage. Mr. Buffett's first wife, Susan, left him and moved to San Francisco in 1977. The two, however, never divorced, and with his wife's encouragement, Astrid Menks, a waitress at the French Cafe in Omaha, eventually moved in with Mr. Buffett. She later married him following Susan's death in 2004.
Buffett and Menks, who was born in Latvia, married on his 76th birthday in 2006. This coming Saturday when he celebrates his 78th birthday, they will have been together for 30 years. She is 62.

A spokesman for Buffett said it wasn't true that he isn't going to do a junket tour for the book because he was upset about material included. The WSJ article says:
Ms. Schroeder acknowledges that Mr. Buffett disagreed with some of what he read in the manuscript but says he didn't ask her to delete anything. She adds that she has 'multiple sources for everything of any significance in my book'.
Ms. Schroeder says her goal was to show the entire man, not merely one aspect of him.

Bantam is going to have to sell an awful lot of books to make a profit on this book. I have always admired Mr. Buffett and will probably buy a copy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'll be away for a week.

Look for me again on Monday, August 25.

Take care.

Crossing the Divide Between Genres

I've mentioned fantasy writer Patricia Briggs multiple times on this blog. Briggs writes the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series published by Ace about a coyote shapeshifter who lives in a small Pacific Northwest community populated by werewolves and vampires.

I resisted reading the first book in the series, Moon Called, which was released in January, 2006 because I was soooo burned out on werewolf stories. By the time I read it, Blood Bound, the second in the series was already out.

I read the first two novels very quickly and was enormously impressed by Briggs' skillful characterizations and terrific world-building. In my review of the first two books in the series almost exactly a year ago here, I said the following:
My only quibble is that Briggs seems a little too leery of romance--or maybe it's sex. She skirts around the subject with all the main male characters in love with Mercy, but with her running from them all. This will get tiresome really fast if Briggs doesn't commit soon. Mercy's over thirty, for heaven's sake. By now, she's living with one werewolf on a platonic basis (despite the fact that they were lovers when she was sixteen. And I am so not buying into their being "platonic" now). . .

About ten days before I posted that review, Berkley, sister imprint to Briggs' own publisher, Ace, released an anthology titled On the Prowl. The anthology contained a novella by Briggs titled "Alpha and Omega" (A&O) featuring characters from the Mercy Thompson series, but not Mercy herself.

I was intrigued by the fact that Briggs was crossing imprints. Additionally, there were other differences between A&O and the Mercy Thompson series.

First, the story is written in third person, rather than the more intimate first person style of the Mercy series. Third person permits the sharing of the hero's POV (point of view).

Second, A&O was not an urban fantasy as much as it was a paranormal romance.

Third, although the novella included characters from the Mercy Thompson series, it is set in Chicago, not in the Pacific Northwest.

"Alpha and Omega" tells the the story of Anna, a werewolf belonging to the Chicago pack. The alpha of her pack is out of control, allowing abuse of the more submissive wolves by the dominant. With her alpha's permission, Anna has been repeatedly raped by the pack. While she is unwilling to act on her own behalf, when she discovers another young werewolf has died, Anna phones Bran Cornick, the Marrok of all the North American werewolves, to report the abuse.

The Marrok sends his son Charles, his enforcer, to set things to rights. Anna meets Charles at the airport, and he immediately recognizes that she is not the submissive she thinks. Instead she is a rare Omega werewolf.

A&O is the story of Charles and Anna's romance. Or, more properly, the romance between Charles' wolf and Anna's wolf.

In Briggs' world, the human side of the werewolves generally selects a mate. The wolves go along for the ride. However, in Charles and Anna's case, the wolves immediately recognize each other as lifemates, and the humans are forced to cope with the aftermath of that decision.

I enjoyed the novella, which reminded me a lot of the Christine Feehan romances. Alpha male tamed by spunky woman. The main difference between the two was that Feehan writes vampire romances and Briggs is writing about werewolves. However, as I said earlier, A&O was NOT an urban fantasy. I figured Briggs was trying to tap into the enormous paranormal romance market.

That suspicion proved correct since Briggs has now announced that novella was the introduction to a new series called "Alpha and Omega." The first book in that series was released almost three weeks ago and titled Cry Wolf.

The new novel continues the romance of Charles and Anna as their human halves attempt to find their way as a couple. It picks up immediately after A&O. You have the feeling that A&O was actually the first few chapters of Cry Wolf.

I've read the comment stream on Amazon relating to Cry Wolf. Of the 45 reviews currently posted there, 20 or 44% are five-star. Fourteen or 31% are four-star. About a quarter of the reviews (24%) are three-star or lower. All of the three-star or lower reviews focussed on one of three themes as follows:

Liander gave it three stars saying:
It's basically a fun romance, nothing unique.
Kathleen complained about not knowing Cry Wolf was a continuation of a novella she had not yet read:
Since the book is billed as the first volume in its series, this was more than a little unfair to this reader who had yet to read what should be the first few chapters of this book.
Minsma summed it up this way:
I really loved the story from the On the Prowl anthology which was the basis of this novel, so I was eager to read this one. It's good, I liked it, but it didn't strike me as being as well-paced as most of Ms. Briggs' books--perhaps because the entire opening of the novel was sliced off and turned into a story for the anthology.
Meanwhile, Iron Kissed, the third book in the Mercy Thompson series, was released in January of this year. I gave it a rave review here. I think it is the best of the three Mercy Thompson novels.

Interestingly enough, the community of romance readers was hugely divided on Iron Kissed . Dear Author, one of the most well-known of the romance reader blogs, did two separate posts with Jane giving Iron Kissed an A- here and Jia giving it a C+ here (although Jia had so much distaste for the book I'm surprised she rated it that high). The comment stream of both reviews is well worth reading.

What I found so interesting was that, in both "Alpha and Omega" and in Iron Kissed, the heroine is raped. But the reactions of the mostly female readership were so different to the two rapes.

I suspect this is because in A&O and Cry Wolf the rape is referred to in the past tense as a part of the heroine's backstory while in Iron Kissed, the reader "sees" the rape in actual progress.

It probably says something about me that I preferred Iron Kissed. While I enjoyed "Alpha and Omega," I found reading about Anna in the full-length Cry Wolf annoying. She was a little too much of a victim for my taste. I still haven't finished Cry Wolf. Actually I began reading the new Kat Richardson instead of finishing it.

The whole thing makes me curious to see how the next Mercy Thompson book, Bone Crossed, will do when it comes out next February. I'm looking forward to it. By the way, the first chapter of Bone Crossed is at the back of Cry Wolf, and it makes clear that Mercy is no one's victim.

I'm also looking forward to seeing two series--one an urban fantasy and the other a paranormal romance--written by the same author using the same world and the same characters and published by the same imprint, Ace Fantasy.

By the way, I need to be gone for a week. Look for me to come back on Monday, August 25th.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Misha Redux

Back in the spring, I wrote two posts on the 1997 book, Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, which was uncovered as a hoax at the end of February.

In her "memoir," Misha Defonseca claimed that, when she was six, she'd run into a forest to avoid the Nazis who had seized her Jewish parents. She described living with wolves over the next four years. The book became a best-seller in Europe and was turned into a French film, Survivre avec les loups (Surviving With Wolves) .

Read my earlier posts here and here.

Since the time of my posts, a woman who took Misha Defonseca and her husband Maurice in, thinking they were destitute, has created a blog to tell her story here.

And Jane Daniel, who published Misha's "memoir" in this country has continued writing a blog here while awaiting the outcome of her suit against Defonseca in which she seeks to overturn
the 2001 judgment against her of $33 million. Daniel and Defonseca will face off in a courtroom later this month.

Daniel has returned to the publishing business. She is releasing a trade paperback of her experiences with Defonseca. The book is titled Bestseller! Although her blog indicates it was released yesterday and that it would be available on and B&N's website, I could not find it in either place.

A Thursday Publishers Weekly story indicated the book would be released next week. Since most books are released on Tuesday, I'm guessing the new release date is August 19th.

Stay tuned for the results of the lawsuit . . .

Friday, August 15, 2008

B&N Says Not Interested in Borders

Thursday's Wall Street Journal had an article co-written by my favorite WSJ reporter Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg:
Barnes & Noble Inc., the nation's largest bookstore chain, isn't expected to make a bid for No. 2 Borders Group Inc., according to those familiar with the situation.

The decision will disappoint investors who have acquired Borders stock in recent months in hopes that Barnes & Noble would move in and buy its most significant bricks-and-mortar rival. Borders put itself up for sale in March after disclosing potential liquidity problems. chimed in:
Barnes & Noble could still change its mind and make an offer, but Borders is hoping to complete the auction by the end of September, the Journal's latest report said. However, if Barnes & Noble does end up bidding for Borders, it's not clear whether antitrust authorities would clear the deal.

Both Barnes & Noble and Borders have faced increased competition from online retailers like while overall book sales haven't shown much growth, analysts have said. A combination between the two book giants could yield cost savings and bolster sales and profit, though the close physical proximity of some of the competing stores may pose a challenge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Important Copyright Case Is Decided

Yesterday, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that may have consequences for the heirs of other authors.

The case was Penguin Group, Inc. v. Steinbeck, and it pitted two sides of the Nobel Prize winner's family against each other.

On one side was the offspring of Steinbeck's second marriage to Gwyndolyn Conger. He and Gwyn were married for only five years from 1943 to 1948, but their union produced his only children, Thom and John IV. Thom and his brother's daughter, Blake Smyle, joined together in the lawsuit. Blake's father, John, died in 1991.

On the other side was the estate of Steinbeck's third wife (and widow) Elaine whom he married in 1950. Their marriage lasted until his death in 1968. She died thirty-five years later in 2003.

When he died, Steinbeck left his two sons $50,000 each. He left his widow Elaine his interest in the copyrights to his early works. This case concerned ten of those early works, including The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat.

Back in 1938-1939, Steinbeck had signed publishing contracts with The Viking Press covering those early works. According to Viking's website, the imprint (and its contracts) was purchased by Penguin books in 1975.

In exchange for giving Penguin rights to additional works, Elaine negotiated a better deal with Penguin in 1994. According to, she got "a larger annual guaranteed advance and royalties of between 10 percent and 15 percent of retail sales."

When she died in 2003, Elaine bequeathed her copyright interests to her own children and grandchildren by a previous marriage. She did not leave anything to her husband's sons.

Many authors are familiar with a law that passed in 1998--The Copyright Term Extension Act, sometimes called the Sonny Bono Act--which extended copyright terms in the U.S. by twenty years. Less well known is a provision of that law that allows authors and heirs to terminate contracts and "recapture some of the additional value produced by the lengthened copyright term . . ." (

A year after Elaine's death, Steinbeck's son and granddaughter contacted Penguin, announcing their plan to terminate the 1994 agreement.

Both Penguin and Elaine's heirs sued.

In 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Owen ruled in favor of Steinbeck's blood relatives over his widow's heirs. According to the London Times:
Judge Owen wrote that copyright law reflected that “a number of such young composers, artists and authors . . . such as John Steinbeck writing his first book in 1929, cannot predict the high stature they would attain, and the popular prominence of their works in musical and literary conciousness — not to mention the eventual high financial rewards to them and their families their work can command.” also quoted Judge Owen:
. . . any interpretation of the 1994 agreement "having the effect of disinheriting the statutory heirs to the termination interest [the Steinbeck Descendants] in favor of Elaine's heirs must be set aside as contrary to the very purpose of the termination statute."
Penguin appealed. And yesterday the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Owen's decision.

Elaine's attorney, Susan J. Kohlmann, was quoted by
"There aren't a lot of decisions interpreting termination rights under the copyright law," Kohlmann said. "By the court's decision, the wishes of John Steinbeck related to the ownership of his literary works has been validated."
Judge Robert Sack, writing for the appeals court wrote that, once Elaine negotiated that better deal, there was no case under the Sonny Bono Act for the Steinbeck blood heirs to terminate the contract. closed its article with a quote from the Steinbeck descendents' attorney:
He said the case will now be returned to Owen for further proceedings on claims the descendents have against the estate of Elaine Steinbeck, including their monetary damages claim that she conspired to deprive them of their statutory termination rights when she negotiated the 1994 Penguin deal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tale of The Jewel of Medina

A week ago yesterday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an op/ed article titled "You Still Can't Write About Muhammad" here. In it, an ex-WSJ reporter named Asra Nomani told the story of a first-time author named Sherry Jones.

In 2002 Ms. Jones, a correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs, a news agency, decided she wanted to write an historical novel about the Aisha, the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad and Aisha's influence on the founding of Islam. Jones did a lot of research (you can see her bibliographic list here) and over half a dozen years she wrote her novel, which she titled The Jewel of Medina, found an agent (Natasha Kern) and sought publication.

According to Ms. Nomani's Journal article, Ballantine, a division of Random House (RH), bought the novel in 2007 in a $100,000, two-book deal. The book was scheduled to be released yesterday . . . until Random House pulled the plug on May 21. A month later, on June 21, Ms. Jones signed a termination agreement with RH so that she and Ms. Kern could try to market the novel elsewhere.


Because, in April, Ballantine asked Ms. Jones to compile a list of academics who *might* be willing to endorse The Jewel of Medina. Ms. Jones added the name of an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin whose book she had read during her research. Denise Spellberg's book was also about Aisha and was titled Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr. Ballantine sent Ms. Spellberg and other scholars a copy of the galley of Ms. Jones' novel.

Ms. Nomani's article reports:
But Ms. Spellberg wasn't a fan of Ms. Jones's book. On April 30, Shahed Amanullah, a guest lecturer in Ms. Spellberg's classes and the editor of a popular Muslim Web site, got a frantic call from her. "She was upset," Mr. Amanullah recalls. He says Ms. Spellberg told him the novel "made fun of Muslims and their history," and asked him to warn Muslims.
Mr. Amanullah sent an email out to Middle Eastern and Islamic studies graduate students warning them of the call he'd received and including report of the sale from the May 7, 2007 issue of Publishers Marketplace:
Journalist Sherry Jones's debut historical novel A'ISHA, BELOVED OF MUHAMMAD, set in seventh-century Arabia, the story of the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad, recreating her marriage at the age of nine, her struggle for personal freedom in a society where women had few rights, and her dedication to The Prophet's vision of a true faith . . . "
Ms. Spellberg's work wasn't done, however. According to Ms. Nomani, she also contacted her own editor at Knopf, another division of Random House. That editor, Jane Garrett, sent an email to her bosses that read in part:
"She [Ms. Spellberg] thinks there is a very real possibility of major danger for the building and staff and widespread violence," . . . "Denise says it is 'a declaration of war . . . explosive stuff . . . a national security issue' . . . thinks the book should be withdrawn ASAP."
Following publication of Ms. Nomani's article, Ms. Jones began her own blog here. In her entry for August 6th, she says:
Denise Spellberg, the UT professor who started all this, called it [her novel] "soft porn" -- which makes me feel like a literary master, able to write a pornographic novel without sex scenes!

Bloggers are going wild, reading all kinds of things into Ms. Nomani's excellent opinion piece. Some believe the Random House assertion that several people warned of potential terrorist attack. If so, that's news to me. The only one I was told about was Ms. Spellberg.
Ms. Spellberg apparently demanded equal time from the Wall Street Journal because on Saturday, the WSJ ran a second piece on the subject by Ms. Spellberg titled "I Didn't Kill the Jewel of Medina." You can read it here.

In her rebuttal, Ms. Spellberg accuses Ms. Nomani of false assertions and says she did not stop the book's publication. Of course, she is right. That was Random House's decision.

She also speaks of her "scholarly expertise" and "professional capacity" in making an assessment of the novel and its potential to provoke anger among Muslims. She does not make any reference to her own attempts to provoke Muslims.

She complains of Ms. Jones' "fallacious representation" of the facts of Aisha's life. With what seems to me to be a remarkably ironic self-righteous tone, she says:
I do not espouse censorship of any kind, but I do value my right to critique those who abuse the past without regard for its richness or resonance in the present.
The purpose of this post is to exercise MY right to critique those who abuse the present by shouting "Fire" AND THEN proceeding to ignite the spark that creates the very conflagration of which she warns.

This behavior on the part of a so-called academic is reprehensible in my view. Ms. Spellman speaks of exploitation, but I find her not-so-subtle threats to the Random House staff worse than any pandering to those who espouse "sex and violence." She practically invited reprisals to the publisher by her irresponsible and hysterical behavior.

Without regard for whether The Jewel of Medina is well-written or well-researched, I hope it soon finds a publisher.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Question of Moral Justice

I've already extolled the virtues of NPR's program, Radio Lab, on this blog. Every week, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich select a subject--usually something from the world of science or philosophy--to discuss.

On Sunday night, I listened to a show on moral justice. Essentially it explored the question of whether morality is innate or learned. What do you think?

The show started with a very famous thought experiment. I've heard it posed and discussed multiple times in the past. Here it is:

You are standing beside a trolley track. Ahead of you on the track are five men working. Their backs are toward you. Behind you, a trolley is coming toward toward the men. You've screamed, but the men can't hear you.

You realize there's a lever nearby that will divert the trolley onto another track. The only problem is that there's a man working on that track. By pushing on the lever, you'll save the five men, BUT . . . the single man will likely be killed.

Do you push the lever to save the five, knowing it will kill the one?

I'm not going to tell you how most people--across cultures, genders, and educational levels--respond. I will tell you that their responses are almost universally identical. Instead I'm going to pose a second thought experiment here:

This time you are standing on a foot bridge above that same trolley track. The same five men are working on the track below you. The same trolley is barreling toward the five workmen.

This time, there's no lever nearby. However, a very large man is standing beside you. You realize you could push him over, and he would land on the tracks and essentially stop the trolley . . . with his body.

Would you push him over, sacrificing the one to save the five?

Again, the vast majority of people responded the same way to this question.

To hear the show and compare your answer to theirs, go here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maybe A Netbook

When we were growing up, the worst thing my brothers could say to me was, "Quit being such a girl!" It usually meant, "Shape up and start pulling your weight, or go home."

As a result, I don't generally bat my green eyes and look pitiful, waiting for a male to rescue me. I drill my own deadbolt holes and install my own locks, I replace my own electrical switches when they die, and I dig and plant my own trees.

There are exceptions to my self-sufficiency, however.

One was during high school when I learned we would be dissecting frogs. Live frogs.

I found the two biggest guys from the football team (so they could block my view of the poor amphibian) and offered to write up the experiment if they would carry it out. The three of us were a very successful team during our junior year. We all got As. And I suspect at least one of them went on to become a serial killer. The other is probably coaching Little League.

Another time I deliberately go "girly" is when it comes to the initial installation and operation of any new technology. When pointed in the right direction, I do a fair-to-middling job of comparison shopping and selecting the right item in question for my needs; I just don't want to have to deal with setting it up.

When I received a digital camera as a gift a couple of years ago, it sat in its little box until one of the men in my life came over to get me started. And right now, there's a brand new flat-screen television sitting in a box in my entry hall where it's been for the last month waiting for someone to get fed up with the fact that I've made no move to de-box it. You see, I don't actually watch television; I mostly listen to it while I'm doing something else. Therefore, the quality of the picture is a non-issue for me--unless it's Viggo Mortensen on screen.

Anyway, the point of this post is that Peter Winkler pointed me in the direction of the new "netbooks" last week. I'd never even heard the term until Peter mentioned it. My plan had been to buy an e-reader and something like an Alpha Smart to do word processing. Until Peter suggested a netbook, it had never occurred to me that I could purchase one device for both functions.

As is my wont, I Googled the word "netbook." According to Wikipedia, Intel introduced the term on February 21 of this year when it announced it would begin selling processors for portable computers costing as little as $250.

Over on the Technology@Intel Website here, Paul Bergevin describes a netbook this way:
They are small laptops that are designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet. And they cost about $250, making Netbooks a potentially disruptive and high volume market segment.
Go here to see a comparison chart of netbooks on Wikipedia and a second chart listing the upcoming releases.

I'm interested in the Asus PC. If the HP Mini-Note comes with Vista instead of XP, I'm not interested in it. I made our IR Department remove Vista from my desktop at work. It was like Windows with training wheels.

Reports are that the Dell E may be released as soon as this coming week.

Interesting times.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How To Get Boys To Read

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on Friday titled "Problem: Boys Don't Like to Read; Solution: Books That Are Really Gross."

The story reiterated what we've all heard before about how girls like to read and boys don't:
Jeffrey Wilhelm, an education professor at Boise State University . . . tracked boys' reading habits for five years ending in 2005 and found that schools failed to meet their "motivational needs." Teachers assigned novels about relationships, such as marriage, that appealed to girls but bored boys. His survey of academic research found boys more likely to read nonfiction, especially about sports and other activities they enjoy, as well as funny, edgy fiction.
So now publishers, booksellers and schools are addressing the problem head-on.
Last year, U.S. publishers released 261 new works of juvenile fiction aimed at boys, more than twice the number put out in 2003, according to Bowker's Books in Print database. There were 20 nonfiction entries for boys, compared with just four in 2003.
Read about the solution here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A New Blog

I regularly check out The Daily Coyote blog here in order to keep up with the adventures of Shreve, her coyote Charlie, her cat Eli and newcomer Chloe.

Last month Shreve's grandmother Svensto, who is almost ninety, began blogging about her life as a Swedish immigrant who came to New York just before World War II. Today I have added her blog here to my "Fun Links."

Svensto offers a glimpse of life in the United States seventy years ago as the world was poised on the brink of war.

Check her blog out.

Should You Self-Publish?

Because this issue keeps coming up again and again on writers' loops and in emails, I've decided to provide my own version of a decision tree. Below are the questions I believe someone should ask a writer who is considering self-publishing:

1) “Are you a newbie or an established name with an audience?”

There is an urban legend out there that Robert James Waller self-published The Bridges of Madison County. He didn’t. However, almost a decade later, he DID make a deal with a small Texas publisher (John M. Hardy) to essentially self-publish the sequel,
A Thousand Country Roads. Waller was able to do this because of the phenomenal success of “Bridges,” which had created a built-in audience for a sequel.

Even so, I find it telling that Waller has returned to traditional publishing for subsequent releases.

2) “If you are a newbie, are you writing fiction or non-fiction?”

It is much easier to sell a non-fiction book than it is a fiction, especially if you have a legitimate platform.

When a reader goes looking for a non-fiction book, she usually has a very narrow frame of reference, which makes it easier to direct her (and other traffic) to your book. If someone can find your book by Googling the subject, you have a huge advantage.

As an example Dr. Ken Blanchard had a training and consulting firm out in California in the late seventies. In the early eighties, he co-wrote and self-published a small non-fiction book titled The One Minute Manager. The book immediately found a home with corporate America because it taught beginning managers three simple lessons.

When a New York publisher came calling, Blanchard opted to go traditional because the publishing house could market the book while he turned his attention to writing additional books in the series. However, he could as easily have continued self-publishing the book because he'd connected with his niche market.

3) “If you are writing fiction, do you have a niche market ready and willing to buy the book?”

This is where a lot of fiction writers get tripped up. When I ask, “Do you have a niche market?” I am not talking about genre readers—-i.e. “I write sci-fi and there is a huge market for sci-fi; therefore, I’ll self-publish.”

A genre market is a huge territory. It has lots of members, lots of well-known names and lots of websites. In order to harness the power of a genre, you must have an established name (see question #1 above).

A niche market, IMHO, is a much smaller venue where you will be readily recognized, welcomed and accepted without judgment. In other words, where you have credibility—either earned on your own or borrowed from someone who HAS earned credibility.

A perfect example of what I’m talking about is the recently published best-seller The Shack. Author William P. Young wrote the small book as evidence of his Christian faith and to inspire his family and friends. He showed it to a well-known Christian writer who introduced him to a well-known pastor. The three decided to self-publish the thin volume after Young could not interest a major publishing house.

While Young had no credibility in the Christian market himself, his two partners did. They sent copies of The Shack to influential Christian friends, tapping into the niche market to which they were already connected. Word-of-mouth spread and book sales grew. People bought copies for their friends who, in turn, referred the book to their own friends. The book has been a phenomenal success, and the Hachette Book Group has now secured the rights.

4) If you do not have a niche audience ready for your fiction, do you have specialized marketing or publishing industry skills (and the money to invest heavily in your book)?

There are a number of examples that come to mind, but the most recent is The Lace Reader. Brunonia Barry’s husband owned a software publishing company. He was willing to invest $50,000 in publishing/marketing her book. They started locally and built from there.

5) If you don’t have a niche audience, don’t have specialized marketing skills and don’t have publishing skill, what are your personal expectations? Do you want to just hold a book of yours in your hands, or do you want to see it on the shelves of libraries and bookstores?

If all you want is to have a book of yours to hold in your hands and to give to your family and friends, by all means self-publish. If you want to just break even or make a modest profit, by all means self-publish. However, if you want a commercially successful book, understand the odds are heavily against a self-published writer—-especially in a world of many more releases every year. Even if you write a great book, the odds will be against you, simply because there are so many books competing for attention.

Add to that the terrible reputation that self-publishing now has, and it is 95% certain you will not be able to place your books in bookstores or libraries. A few self-publishing operations now have deals with certain bookchains in which you, the author, pay for placement in bookstores for a short period of time. But that's not the same thing.

The self-publishing industry is a slick one. They offer you the names of successful writers who self-published, although they rarely offer the specifics of the stories to explain why writers like Waller, Blanchard, Young and Barry above did succeed.

I hope this post will help writers decide whether to self-publish or not. Or at least to slow down before jumping into the deep end of the pool.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Aw, Gee, Thanks

Thanks to agent Nathan Bransford for a shout-out here linking to my post from Saturday. [waving to Nathan]

A Review of A Review

Among the blogs I visit regularly is Dear Author (DA), a romance review site.

On Thursday, Jane of DA posted an interesting review of another blogger's review of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

Did you get all that? If not, let's go over it again slowly.

Stephenie Meyer is the author of the best-selling YA vampire series: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and the last book, Breaking Dawn, recently released on August 2.

Meyer, a 34-year-old wife and mother, made her publishing debut with the novel Twilight in October, 2005. In a month, the book was on the New York Times best-seller list.

The author has made no secret of her Mormon background or its influence on her writing. Adults have lauded the YA series for being "squeaky clean."

I have to confess I have not read any of Meyer's books. I picked up Twilight, which was prominently displayed in my local B&N, but decided against buying it for a purely personal reason--my reaction to what I saw as the misspelling of Meyer's first name {grin}.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is a Hispanic writer with a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia. The bio on her blog includes the fact that her father is a sociology professor originally from Cuba. She also says this:
One of the 25 "most influential Hispanics" in America, according to Time magazine. Still, the New York Times ignored every letter and op-ed I ever sent them. Still, I could not get calls returned, or emails, from most people I wanted to reach. In truth, I wielded all the influence of a lab rat. If I were more influential than the other 35 million Latinos in the land, then God help us all. Complexity denied. Lack of nuance celebrated . . . Polite applause from the elites. But never an open door to their club.
A thoughtful woman. And one who has devoted thought to her origins, her race and her place in today's society.

On Tuesday of this week, Valdes-Rodriguez posted a review of the Twilight series. The title of her review was "Is Stephenie Meyer Racist?" You can read it here.

Talk about getting in your face.

Valdes-Rodriguez posits that Meyer's books ARE racist. She points to the emphasis on the vampire hero Edward's pale white skin.

Edward's rival for heroine Bella is Jacob Black, a Native American werewolf. Can you see where this is going?

Valdes-Rodriguez believes that Meyer's Mormon faith is the source of all her (unconscious) racism.

Having not yet read the books, I don't feel qualified to comment on Valdes-Rodriguez's theory. However, Jane from Dear Author has read the books, and she fires back with her review on Thursday here.

Valdes-Rodriguez had a follow-up post on Thursday here.

I do feel qualified to make a couple of comments. First, I am not as sensitive to issues of race as are my black and brown friends. But, as an Anglo, let's face it. I don't have reason to be as sensitive. I do know that my male friends and relatives complain that I am hyper-sensitive to the discrimination of females.

Gosh, is there a parallel here?

Second, I applaud all three women. Meyer for writing her novels and seeing them through to publication. Alisa for asking questions she felt needed to be asked. And Jane for responding with her own thoughtful comments.

This is what books are for. And exactly the reason why I don't believe in banning any book.

Opposable thumbs set primates apart from other animals. And critical thought sets humans apart from other primates.

I believe it's far better to expose theories to the light where they can be considered, challenged and either proved or disproved. It's when we hide our actions or thoughts behind closed doors, apart from scrutiny, that the problems arise.

Read and decide for yourself.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm Gonna Organize A "Rescue Chuck" Team

I haven't had a lot of time for discretionary reading lately, but tonight I did a quick run through my favorite blogs to see what's been going on.

I've mentioned the Dooce blog before. Heather Armstrong is a writer who supports her family (husband Jon, four-year-old daughter Leta and two dogs) through her writing and blog.

I'll admit it. My favorite character in the family is the long-suffering dog Chuck whom I once called the only adult in the household. Heather lost him, not once, but twice in a year. But through it all, he goes along gamely with whatever she cooks up for him. Go here to see what I mean.

This is my all-time favorite set of photos of poor Chuck--Halloween, 2006--here as he imitates three characters from Star Wars.

Not satisfied with torturing poor Chuck, Heather has adopted a second dog, which she's named Coco. Heather and Jon just did not realize what a special dog Chuck was. They are now struggling with a crazy puppy.

Read the latest Coco post here. Be forewarned. If you are easily offended, this is not the post for you.

And, I swear I'm gonna begin organizing a "Rescue Chuck" team any day now.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

It was 105 degrees yesterday in Dallas. When it's that hot outside, the weather is invariably the chief topic of conversation. People vie for the "hottest" story. "My car was so hot today that . . ." "It was so hot outside today that . . . "

Halfway home last night, it suddenly dawned on me. I'm feeling happy.

And not just happy around the edges, that limp sort of almost-happy. I mean real honest to goodness, straight up, laugh out loud happy.

I think my joy is enhanced by the fact that the last three months have been tough ones. I quit my job because I was miserable and almost immediately had a serious health scare.

There's nothing like having an unresolved health issue when you're staring down the calendar at unemployment.

I'm not through with all the scary issues yet. I've still got some health stuff to deal with down the road. And I'm still not in a "permanent for keeps" job.

But I am in a job that suits me for right now. I've accepted a position doing "special projects" for my department at the university.

The first project is a lulu. I'm developing the business continuity plan for my department. For business continuity, read "disaster plan." Today will be my third day on the job.

It's the perfect job for me. I get to go around talking to people all day, asking them to explain how their divisions operate. My department has over twenty divisions and more than five hundred employees--not to mention students, post-docs, fellows, visiting scholars and clients.

Right now, I'm sorting out the functional roles of each unit. Every one has multiple functions, but they don't all have the same functions: educational, clinical, research, billing, administrative, publications . . . the list goes on and on.

Today I obtained floor plans of the three main buildings. Among the tasks I've set myself is to identify any potentially hazardous substances: chemicals, gases, compressed air, CO2.

My boss trusts me to do the job and has given me autonomy. I've been setting up appointments all over the campus. I need to talk to the Information Resources staff to find out how our data is stored off site. I need to talk to the Physical Plant people to determine how the backup generators and Sensaphone systems operate (Sensaphone is an alarm that automatically begins telephoning a list of numbers when certain conditions are met; for instance, if a sub-80 freezer's temp suddenly rises to sub-50). I also need to think about a plan for moving the campus functions off site if it suddenly becomes impossible to continue operating on campus.

Not to mention a plan for evacuating all our sites and checking to make sure everyone has made it out. AND a plan for confirming the location (and safety) of all our faculty, classified staff and visitors to our campus during an incident.

I've always loved those material conditional statements: If so-and-so, then such-and-such. This project will ultimately become an exercise in building a series of material conditional statements.

So . . . maybe the secret to joy is to have work you enjoy, that you're qualified to do, and which you find meaningful.

At any rate, I'm not about to complain. I'm just going to keep on doing my interviews, feeling blessed and . . . happy.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Update on the Kindle

Amazon has repeatedly refused to reveal how many Kindles it has sold since the e-reader launched in November. Estimates by industry experts have been all over the map.

On Friday, Techcrunch reported the following here:
. . . 240,000 Kindles have been shipped since November, according to a source close to Amazon with direct knowledge of the numbers.
Techcrunch went on to estimate that the combination of Kindle devices and $25 per device reading material would mean the business is bringing in well over $100 million.

I'm about ready to invest in an e-reader, but I'm still waiting to see the Astak Mentor which is due out in October. It has three sizes ranging from $200 to $350. See it here. I'm hopeful it will be The One.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Foxy Brown's Long Sad Story

On July 25, I reported here that Simon & Schuster had sued the rappers Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim for failing to deliver on the advances they'd been paid.

Four days later 101.1 The Beat printed Foxy's side of the story.

No one disputes these facts: S&S paid Foxy $75,000 as part of an agreement dated October 18, 2005 to produce a memoir to be titled Broken Silence with a deadline of February 1, 2006. She did not meet that deadline.

The stories diverge at this point. Reports say that about five months before signing the contract with S&S, Foxy began experiencing a hearing loss while working on her Black Roses video. Foxy's attorney indicates she was later diagnosed with severe deafness in both ears:
. . . attorney Laura Dilimetin tells, "With Simon & Schuster's blessings, Foxy Brown underwent extensive surgical procedures [in January, 2006] and a lengthy recovery time, fighting to restore her hearing."
Dilimetin claims that, following the surgery, the singer approached S&S, but that the publishing house had changed its mind about the project.

It's possible that Brown's claim that S&S changed its mind is true. Dilimetin mentioned Foxy's loss of hearing, but neglected to mention a few other details that might have led to the publisher's change of heart. I did a Google search on Foxy Brown, whose history is as colorful as her name.

Foxy has had a long record of behaving badly. Back in 1997, when she was seventeen, she was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina on assault charges for spitting on two hotel workers when they told her they didn't have an iron available to give her.

In 2002, she was arrested at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica for an altercation with a police officer. She skipped out on her hearing, and Jamaica has made it plain they will arrest her if she ever returns to their island.

In August, 2004, Foxy got into an altercation with two manicurists in a Bloomie Nails salon when they charged her for both a manicure and a pedicure and she refused to pay for the manicure. She kicked one worker and hit the second one in the face.

On December 23, 2005--during the same month her attorney says that Foxy was diagnosed with severe sudden sensorineural hearing loss--she appeared in a Manhattan court to finalize her plea deal for the Bloomie Nails incident. Here is how CBS TV described the incident:
Judge Melissa Jackson thought Brown was chewing gum and asked her to get rid of it. Brown responded by opening her mouth and sticking her tongue out.

Judge Jackson ordered Brown cuffed to a bench for 15 minutes, but when a female court officer attempted to handcuff her they got into a heated exchange over a bracelet the rapper was wearing.

Judge Jackson alleged that Brown also struck the officer. When Brown refused to apologize, she was threatened with 30 days in jail. She gave in and apologized to the court. The confusion was that she stuck out her tongue to show that she had no gum, not to disrespect the judge.
In June of 2006, Simon & Schuster editor Tricia Boczkowski said in an interview that she was about to start work on Foxy's memoir so we have a clue that the publisher and rapper had not yet torn the sheets.

However, according to the documents here recently filed with the court on July 24, 2008, S&S sent a demand letter to Brown on July 20, 2006, terminating their agreement and asking for the $75,000 back.

Three days before S&S sent Brown the letter, the New York Post had run an article on Brown in their famous Page Six column. The story reported that Brown had fired her personal assistant, Rasheeda Ellis, who filed a claim in Jersey City Municipal Court, claiming Brown shorted her pay and then made terrorist threats when she tried to collect her back salary. Brown said she fired Ellis when she caught the girl leaking her emails to reporters. Both women failed to show up for a July 11 court date which was rescheduled for August 23.

August was a bad month for the hip hop diva. On August 23, Foxy missed a second court date in Jersey City.

On August 26, 2006, the New York Post reported that Brown had walked out of L'impasse, a Greenwich Village boutique, after pocketing two belts costing $400 each.

The incident happened on August 24th at 9:45 PM, after the store had already closed. Brown showed up at the door demanding back the lingerie she had dropped off the previous day to be altered. The owner of the store had given her a free leather dress when she dropped off the lingerie. After being told the lingerie was not yet ready, Brown began haggling over the price of a gold rhinestone belt for the leather dress. When she and the clerk could not come to terms, Brown stuffed the belt and another one into her purse and walked out. The store owner filed a complaint with the police.

On August 28, 2006, Foxy pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges on that nail salon incident, but then tried to withdraw the plea. According to FoxNews, she tried to withdraw the plea when "she realized her sentence would include regular drug testing and anger management classes." In October, 2006, Judge Jackson refused to allow Foxy to withdraw the plea and placed the rapper on three years probation.

According to USA Today, on September 26, 2006, both Foxy and her former personal assistant, Rasheeda Ellis, "dropped the complaints in return for both sides agreeing not to have contact with each other and not to discuss the case in the media."

According to, Foxy was hauled back into court in mid-December, and "accused of failing to keep appointments with probation officers, appear for anger management classes and submit to drug tests." The judge let her go with a warning.

Her bad behavior didn't stop. According to, in January, 2007, "Brown was bounced from a Big Apple anger-management program for allegedly threatening a staffer."

Brown was next arrested on February 15, 2007 for an altercation in the washroom of Queen Beauty Supply Shop in Miami, Florida. The store's owner claimed he asked her to leave at closing time and said she refused, spitting on him and squirting him with a bottle of spray hair glue. The police were called and Brown fought with an officer.

According to, "She was booked on battery and obstruction of justice charges and spent the night in jail before posting a $1,500 bond the following day."

That incident caused her problems in two states. New York ordered her back into court for violating her probation agreement by traveling out-of-state without permission. On March 1, she pleaded guilty of probation violation and the judge told her another violation would buy her a year in jail.

On March 22, 2007, a Broward County, Florida judge issued a warrant for Foxy's arrest for failure to appear in their court. On March 29, she appeared and pleaded not guilty. In May, she rejected a plea deal, and the judge ordered her to give a DNA sample so that the shirt the shop owner had turned over to the court could be tested to confirm the owner's contention that she had spit at him.

In May, a young mother called the police to report that Foxy had almost run her and her baby in a stroller down while driving her silver Range Rover through a New York intersection.

In June, Manhattan Judge Jackson praised Brown for keeping to the terms of her probation. But later that month she was in trouble again--for missing a probation appointment and turning up four hours late for a second one.

Weeks later, Foxy was in hot water yet again after a neighbor in Brooklyn accused her of assault. According to FoxNews:
Brown was arrested Tuesday [July 31] for allegedly assaulting Arlene Raymond, 25, who lives near the rapper in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, on July 30. Police said the two women got into a fight over Brown blasting her car stereo.

Raymond alleged that a few days later, they passed each other on the street and Brown hurled her BlackBerry at her, cutting her lip and knocking a tooth loose.

Brown, whose real name is Inga Marchand, was released on $50,000 bail after her arraignment Tuesday on charges of felony assault, misdemeanor assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Does it come as any shock to you that Brown and model Naomi Campbell are friends? According to "When asked for a comment, Naomi Campbell replied 'Ha! That bitch is even crazier than me'!”

But wait! There's more. Like the old Popeil Pocket Fisherman ads, I'm not finished yet.

The same day of her arrest, Foxy was stopped by the police for running a stopsign in New Jersey while talking on her cell phone. The New York Times describes the traffic stop this way:
Russel J. Read, a police officer in Mahwah, N.J., testified that he had stopped Ms. Brown driving a gray Land Rover on Aug. 15 while talking on her cellphone . . . she made an illegal U-turn trying to evade him. She was driving with a suspended license and registration, he said.

The officer testified that Ms. Brown boasted that her father was the chief of an all-black law enforcement agency, that she was related to the hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, and that “she was going to have my job.” She also accused him of stopping her for D.W.B., or “driving while black,” he said.
Judge Jackson ordered Foxy into jail until her next hearing.

Brown's attorney told the New York Post: "She's getting married, she's three months pregnant, she signed a record deal two weeks ago, and she is in contract for a reality TV show."

Despite Foxy's claims that she was suffering in Riker's Island, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward denied her application for release.

Judge Jackson had run out of patience. On August 8, 2007, she told Brown she had acted as if her celebrity status placed her above the law.

Her attorney made no mention of any pregnancy at that hearing. reported: "Turns out it really wasn’t a baby so much as an unabashed plea for leniency. Thankfully neither the pregnancy nor the reduced punishment really panned out."

On September 7, Judge Jackson sentenced Brown to one year in jail to be served starting immediately.

On October 4, Brown announced a new website,, and that a new album Brooklyn's Don Diva would be released on November 20th, while she was still in jail. The album's release was twice delayed while she remained in jail, first to February and then to May.

The website Ill-Nana.netreported Brown was placed in solitary confinement on October 16:
Brown "was sentenced to 76 days of "punitive segregation" after committing three violations at Rikers Island this month. According to reports, the first incident occurred on Oct. 3, when Brown and another inmate allegedly engaged in a shoving match on their way to the dining hall. The next day, Brown was verbally abusive to a correction officer and refused to take a drug test.

The Department of Corrections at the Rose M. Singer facility, where Brown has been jailed since Aug. 22, reviewed the cases and sentenced her to solitary confinement. Brown spends 23 hours alone in her cell, and is allowed one hour each day to see visitors, meet with attorneys and engage in recreational activities."
Her manager claimed the entire solitary confinement ordeal was a mistake that resulted from her hearing impairment.

After forty days in solitary, Foxy was released back into the general population for "good behavior" according to

On January 16, 2008, Foxy applied to the court for early release, claiming her hearing was deteriorating further while she was incarcerated and she risked going deaf. On January 24, the judge denied early release, saying Brown had not provided any proof of her claim that her hearing was at risk.

On April 18th, she was released from Riker's. All her previous remarks to the court about having learned her lesson were forgotten as she told supporters, "I did almost a year in prison, a year in prison, just because my name is Foxy Brown."

Apparently her eight months in the slammer left Foxy with little taste for another incarceration. On April 24, 2008, she accepted a plea deal to avoid jail time in the Florida assault incident. Instead of two years in jail she got six months probation, fifteen hours of community service and an order to write letters of apology to the store owner and employee.

On May 8, 2008, Brown pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of "menacing" in the incident where she hit her neighbor in the face with her Blackberry. According to, "the plea deal allows the rapper . . . to avoid a felony assault charge."

The long-awaited album Brooklyn's Don Diva was released on
May 13, 2008. Rolling Stone gave it 2 1/2 stars out of five. The Village Voice said that Foxy " is proving to be her own worst enemy." RapSearch was probably the most blunt: ". . . for fans of Foxy, you could find some enjoyment, even if no one else would."

Given the history I've described here, Foxy's response was predictable. Blame someone else: "Unfortunately, during my incarceration, this CD was compiled without my approval. I heard this CD in its entirety, for the first time, just days ago and was devastated."


Re-reading this post, I'm mostly sad. This is an example of what happens when impulsive, ignorant children are given too much adulation and too much money at a young age. Brown was only sixteen when her debut album Ill Na Na went platinum and only nineteen when she became the first female rap artist to enter the Billboard 200 at #1 with her second album Chyna Doll in 1999.

I would have hoped that eight months away from her frenetic lifestyle would have given the Don Diva a chance for introspection, a chance to think about where's she's been and where she's going. In about a month she'll be 30. Like it or not, she's already likely lived a third of her life.

Wouldn't it be great if she could be known for something else during the middle phase of her life other than violence, narcissism and materialism?

Maybe then there'd be something fit for Simon & Schuster to print.